By Samuel Burke, CNN
The Bangladesh factory collapse two weeks ago has, at last count, killed over 1,000 people.
The country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has laid part of the blame for that tragedy on the Western retailers that flock to that country to take advantage of cheap labor.
Minimum wage in Bangladesh is a measly $38 a month, but the heartbreaking images of people being pulled out of rubble could be a catalyst for Western consumers and retailers to insist on better conditions for workers there.
The Walt Disney Company has already pulled out – but is that the right way to make things better? Some of the biggest retailers in the world, like Walmart, H&M, Gap and JCPenney still remain.
Michael Posner was the U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, and he's now starting up the first business and human rights center in this country at New York University’s Stern Business School.
“I don't think what Disney did is right,” Posner told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “I think it's important for companies to make a commitment, to stay in countries like Bangladesh, to make a long-term commitment, to work with each other and to recognize that they can't keep running after the cheapest labor cost.”
If American and Western consumers want to help people get out of poverty, it is important for them to have a presence in countries like Bangladesh, according to Posner.
“The reality is there are four-million people, mostly young women, working in these factories in Bangladesh. They're often the only breadwinners in their families,”
Posner believes that the companies there should be working together to make conditions better, instead of competing against each other.
“There needs to be a way in which the companies come together,” Posner said. “Let's say the 100 biggest retailers came together and they said, we have a collective plan. We're going to push the government of Bangladesh to do better. We're also going to contribute to the solution.”
There is a precedent for this type of cooperation. Years ago, Posner worked with little kids stitching soccer balls in a small town in Pakistan.
“Twenty brands came together, the big companies - Adidas, Nike - and they said, we're going to figure this out together, with the World Bank, with the U.S. government.”
They built a stitching center, which Posner said improved conditions and could serve as a model for Western retailers invested in Bangladesh.